Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Rita . . . from Denmark with Love
Native American Brainfood
The Amazing Speed that Languages Evolve
Hur står det till idag? How are you today? We are traveling to Scandinavia for a linguistics lesson that is directly applicable to understanding the Southeast’s indigenous history.
During the past week I have been watching on Netflix, one of Europe’s most popular TV series, Rita. It is out of Denmark and is both a very funny and serious saga about a promiscuous single mother–school teacher, whose kids are leaving the nest.
The role of a very complex Rita is masterfully played by Danish actress, Mille Dinesen. The acting and script-writing is vastly superior to any of the drivel you will see on American networks these days. For those of you interested in Scandinavia, Rita is also an extremely accurate portrayal of Scandinavian culture. Danish is close enough to English that the subtitles flow seamlessly with the acting – unlike French, German and Spanish TV programs.
There are several sub-plots in the series involving the personal growth of Rita’s children. Molly Madsen (played by the extremely talented Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) discovers that she can’t hold a job after graduation because she is dyslexic – which is quite embarrassing to her educator-mother – who was so absorbed in helping other children that she failed to notice her own daughter’s learning disability. Molly states after being dumped by her boyfriend, “I am still skinny and horny. That will get me another man, but I can’t do anything else.”
Ricco’s oldest son is in a live-in relationship with Bitten, a manipulative, but lovely Danska flicka, who is the daughter of Rita’s ex-lover. Now THAT gets complicated, when the passions re-flame between the former lovers.
As the series begins, Rita’s 15 year old son, Jeppe, announces that he is gay after failing to pleasure his girlfriend, after she tells him in his bedroom that she is ready to go all the way for the first time. He starts looking for gay boyfriends, but has to be helped by his straight older brother. Simultaneously, Rita is assigned to teach the 9th grade sex education classes. She secretly spends long hours at night studying the porn websites on her son’s computer, so she can be a “good Danish mother” and also explain homosexuality to her students.
Other than Molly, my favorite character is Rasmus the school principal, whom I identify with because he wears shorts to work. He is deeply in love with Rita and wants their relationship to grow beyond meeting in his office after hours, the back seat of his car or a school restroom. However, Rita initially refuses to go on conventional dates with him, like “dinner at a nice restaurant on Friday night.”
Before we go any further, I should warn parents that you would probably NOT consider this prime time Danish TV show suitable for your children. In every detail, Scandinavian attitudes toward sexuality and gender equality are identical to those of the Creek People before the missionaries started working on us. If a movie, Rita would be rated R in the United States.
My official Swedish girl friend (see below) without any hesitation, would flip off her blouse and bra, whenever we were riding bikes in the countryside. Creek women also went topless in the warm months. There were condom vending machines on the sidewalks in Landskrona – maintained by the county health department. Young Creek women also used herbal birth control methods before and after marriage. Scandinavian women are typically sexually active about 10 years before their first child. A Creek woman was usually sexually active 5-10 years before having her first baby. Unlike most indigenous American societies, Creek young people dated around for about 5-10 years before marrying. Creek parents encouraged their kids to sexually experiment so that they would not have wanderlust after marriage.
Proto-Creek families were small, because of practicing birth control. Therefore, populations were slow to rebound after epidemics passed through a town.
Just as when I was in Sweden, this series portrays the primary concerns among Scandinavian parents today concerning abusive relationships between young people, their children becoming pregnant before experiencing adult life or getting married too young. Several of the shows deal with those issues.
In fact, I was perplexed by that same moral dilemma while in Sweden. A talented Svenska flicka had elected to pursue a musical career rather than go to college after gymnasium. Gymnasium is roughly the equivalent to the senior year in high school and first two years of a liberal arts college.
She soon married an older man, who was also a musician. He was very controlling and constantly belittled her in public, while frequently having flings with women and probably, men, too. Her parents went to extreme measures to encourage me to have an affair with her in order to break up the toxic relationship. I was very inexperienced with life and couldn’t understand why parents would encourage adultery. I chickened out after having dinner with her parents and her at her parents’ vacation house.
This Svenska flicka went on to have a successful music career (understatement) but ended up being divorced by her husband a few years later. After seeing her on a recent TV interview in Sweden (YouTube), I am convinced she was emotionally scarred for life. She was not the same buck-toothed, girl next door . . . full of love for everything that I knew.
Why I was there
I had not applied for the job in Sweden, but had been offered the temporary position by the King of Sweden about two months after my Navy battalion commander told me that the Navy had a glut of SeaBee officers and that I would not be going into Active Duty status after graduation. The morning after graduation from Georgia Tech, I flew or rode in a ferry for 24 hours to reach Landskrona, Sweden.
My architecture project, a pedestrian village, was on Ven Island in the Oresund Channel between Sweden and Denmark. About 300 meters to the west of the island, all ships and submarines of the Soviet Baltic Fleet had to pass to reach the Atlantic Ocean. The submarines had to come out of the water at that point because the Oresund was too shallow. This cliff was a great place for photography! <wink>
Three days after arriving in Scandinavia, a beautiful Swedish flicka, who looked like Elin Nordegren, ex-wife of Tiger Woods, came up to me in the Rǻdhusplats (town plaza) at lunch time, and said, “Hey, I am your new official girl friend, while you are in Sweden. We must look like we are lovers, but if you don’t like me, you can have fun with other girls too.
“Also, on Friday evenings, we must take the ferry to Köpenhamn (Copenhagen) and have dinner at Tivoli Gardens with someone from the naval attaché office and his Danish girlfriend. (At that time of the year, night time lasted about four hours.) There, you can give him your camera film and drawings. Do not leave any exposed film in your apartment. Keep it with you always. There are many members of the Säkerhetspolisen, who are loyal to the Socialist Party and getting money from the Soviet KGB.”
I thought that I had died and gone to heaven . . . I am not worthy . . . I am not worthy . . . LOL
Getting to the point
Having once been immersed in Swedish and Danish culture, I can see things, while watching a contemporary TV series from Scandinavia, that someone, who had merely been a tourist, would miss. I am absolutely stunned how the Danish and Swedish languages have changed since I was there.
Scandinavians are using many American English words in everyday language as substitutes for their indigenous words. Jagvsst has become ”yes” in casual conversation. Many American words such as wow, okay and anything associated with electronics or pop culture have entered their languages. Rita is filled with American slang and curse words. Many of the characters in the TV program have American first names, such as Rita and Molly, which apparently is the case for the new generation in Denmark.
Furthermore, the word structure of casual conversations has become much more like American English. I could see how that within a century, Danish could become a dialect of English.
Keep in mind that Scandinavians enjoy a vastly superior quality of life than Americans. They are better educated and have much better health and dental care . . . are far less violent, community-minded and have a much higher medium per capita income. They have honest politicians, who put the welfare of the country above themselves or their campaign fund donors. I never saw a poor person or a slum anywhere in Scandinavia. If America’s dysfunctional, greedy, violent culture is having such an impact on Scandinavians, how much more would an advanced indigenous culture in the Americas affected the languages of hunters and gatherers?
At POOF, the year 2015 has been the year of the word. Throughout this year, I have been researching the etymologies of Native American words in the Colonial archives that have generally been ignored by historians and anthropologists for two centuries. When ethnologist, John Swanton, attempted to translate the words, he typically got it wrong . . . but virtually all archaeological reports in the Southeast quote Swanton as factual, without double-checking in a Native American language dictionary.
Very frankly, I am absolutely astounded at the scale of influence from Peru and the Upper Amazon Basin on the Lower Southeast. The peoples of the South Carolina Low Country that anthropologists labeled Muskogean or Siouan, are actually from South America and the Caribbean Basin. Several of the languages labeled Siouan from the Carolina Piedmont are also from the the tropics or Andes. In Georgia,even the word, Apalache, is the Europeanization of the Panoan (Peruvian) word that means ”Offspring of those from Peru.” There is no question that the Swift Creek and Napier Cultures were Peruvian in origin. The Hopewell Culture earthworks are identical to earlier and contempaneous ceremonial complexes in the Upper Amazon Basin. The Muscogee Creek square was being built by Panoans in the Piedmont region of Peru, before it appeared in the Piedmont of the Southeastern United States.
It appears that there were at least three major waves of South American-Caribbean immigration. One was from refugees fleeing the bloodthirsty Moche Kingdoms around 2000 years ago. Another wave came at the fall of the Moche Kingdoms between around 800 and 900 AD. Simultaneously, Itza refugees fled northward into Southeastern North America and left their indelible linguistic and genetic marks on the ancestors of the Creeks. There was another wave of immigrants as the Incas were coming to power. Simultaneously, as described in the Migration Legend, bands of people from east central and northern Mexico arrived in the region and merged with earlier arrivals. Right now, I am not even sure when the Muskogeans arrived. The linguistic and genetic picture is too confusing to make a call.
People ask me when I am going to write a book on the Apalache Culture and the stone terrace complexes in the Southern Highlands that we have discovered since 2012? The answer is, ”I don’t know. Our understanding of the Southeast’s past is changing so rapidly that I am afraid that something I wrote today, would be proven wrong tomorrow with new information.”
These are interesting times.
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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